Supporters rally for Nicholas Chittock, who faces animal cruelty charge in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Supporters rally for Nicholas Chittock, who faces animal cruelty charge in Nevada County

Supporters of Nicholas Chittock on Monday crowded into a Nevada County courtroom and spilled into the hallway as the general manager of Simply Country pleaded not guilty to an animal cruelty accusation.

Deputies refused entry to Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger's courtroom once all seats were filled for Chittock's arraignment. The remainder, many of them wearing pins stating "I support Nic Chittock," waited in the hall until the five- minute hearing was complete.

At the first-appearance hearing Chittock, through defense attorney Greg Klein, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of animal cruelty. Chittock declined to waive a 10-day deadline for his preliminary hearing, leading the judge to set Dec. 28 for that matter.

"If it's not abundantly apparent to the court, there's a few people here in support of Mr. Chittock," Klein told the judge.

Prosecutors in court documents claim that Chittock unlawfully deprived a piglet and birds of necessary sustenance, drink and shelter, which caused needless suffering. The accusation stems from the Nov. 2 discovery of about 360 live birds that appeared malnourished and 58 dead ones from the Simply Country in Rough and Ready.

About eight people congregated outside the courthouse before Chittock's hearing, holding signs that stated "We Support Nic."

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"We're looking for justice," said Brad Fowler, president of the Nevada County Farm Bureau and one of several supporters who went to court on Monday. "This whole thing is, what would I call this — it's a manipulation of the judicial system and we're looking for a correction."

Fowler said he's concerned that some people with extreme animal-rights beliefs are trying to use the justice system. He called Chittock an outstanding person, saying he's known him for 10 years and done business with his family for 30 years.

"If this felony charge goes through, it's going to change animal agriculture in Nevada County," Fowler said.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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